Excerpted from Closer Than Your Skin by Susan D. Hill. Copyright © 2008 by Susan D. Hill. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
1. CHAPTER ONE – FOLLOWING ALICE
Have you ever sensed a “sneeze” moment with God? See what you can remember and share some of these experiences with your group. You might want to start a “book of remembrance” to log your spiritual sneeze moments with God.
2. CHAPTER TWO – BASIC TRUST
Picture yourself in a large room with God. What would he say to you? What would you say to him? How far or close are you? Do you want to embrace him or run? What parallels do you see to your experience of your earthly father?
3. CHAPTER 3 – POINTS OF CONTACT
What helps you feel God’s presence? How do you make time for those things? Are there other ways you’d like to try to experience his presence? You might consider reading some inspirational biographies (see www.closerthanyourskin.com for ideas).
4. CHAPTER FOUR – LOVE CAME DOWN
Take time to think about how you first came to God. Share your thoughts with your group. If you’re not sure, share what you’ve experienced so far. Write out your faith journey to tell your story in your own way.
5. CHAPTER 5 – GOT RELIGION?
Are your prayers ritualistic? Are you trying to do everything right spiritually? When you miss church, do you feel bad about yourself? Do you keep a scorecard on your spiritual activity? Do you do things to be noticed at church? Share your responses and check out Susan’s website for the complete Religiosity Self-assessment.
6. CHAPTER 6 – NEVER GOOD ENOUGH
Have you experienced God in a personal way? Do you struggle with ongoing sin? Are you likely to give up something for Lent or make a New Year’s resolution? Do you accept blame often? Do you apologize a lot? Share answers with your group and see the website for more.
7. CHAPTER SEVEN – EXPOSING MARTHA
Have you ever made an “inner vow?” Talk about a few of these in your group. Do you know how to rest? Is this problem worse for women than men? Discuss how this issue affects your own life, then read Luke 10:38- 42 and discuss it together.
8. CHAPTER EIGHT – AMBUSHED BY LIFE
Why do bad things happen to good people? Have you put God on trial for causing you pain? A crisis can open doors for God to speak, or rather, for us to hear. Share an experience where you sensed God’s comfort in a time of crisis.
9. CHAPTER NINE – INKLINGS
Do you believe you can know God intimately? Keep a journal to log special verses, dreams, coincidences, or impressions, and plan to share about any message God confirmed through two or more experiences the next time your group meets.
10. CHAPTER TEN – PUZZLES
Discuss a Biblical parable or metaphor that’s significant to you (for example, gardening involves planting, pulling weeds, watering, pruning). Take turns interpreting how the metaphor relates to your lives and explain its meaning for your group.
11. CHAPTER ELEVEN – THANKSGIVING.COM
Do you tend to be optimistic or pessimistic? How has this shaped your view of God? Make a list of things you are thankful for, adding to it every time you think of it. Discuss any changes in your outlook the next time your group meets.
12. CHAPTER TWELVE – UNWINDING
Do you have a religious agenda–something you’re doing for God? How do you think recognizing our “bankruptcy before God” changes one’s faith? For the next week, start your day by asking God, what He’s doing today, and report to your group what happened.
13. CHAPTER THIRTEEN – THOUGHTS ON DESTINY
Desiring to help others and fix a broken world is natural and good. But if God’s not in it, our labor is in vain. When you consider the specific purpose God created you for, is anything blocking you from that? Often, the supernatural, mysterious side of God can make us uncomfortable and cause us to struggle with trying to fix things on our own. Discuss.
14. CHAPTER FOURTEEN – ANCHORED
Do you understand the term “silent divorce”? Share your views on some of the inherent spiritual challenges of marriage. Where do you feel most fulfilled? Does God factor in? Why is vulnerability so important in close relationships? Discuss with your group.
15. CHAPTER FIFTEEN – REPAIRING DESOLATIONS
Do you recognize any patterns of behavior in your life that echo an original wound? Have you seen others living out of their wounds? Share your observations. Read Matthew 18: 23-35 as a group and discuss practicing intentional forgiveness with those who have hurt you.
16. CHAPTER SIXTEEN – NO STONES OR SNAKES
Does raising a child in today’s world scare you? Discuss the struggle of ensuring they’ll adopt your values. How does one set an example of authentic faith in hard times? In what ways can we teach them how God works through events in our lives?
17. CHAPTER SEVENTEEN – STEADFAST LOVE
How does one balance between an invasive, godless culture and an overprotective Christian bubble? Should we be honest with children about our own process of spiritual growth? Describe the ways we can share with children about how God answers and guides us.
18. CHAPTER EIGHTEEN – THREE HAMMERS
Have you experienced two-way conversation with God? Do specific prayers test God or are general prayers weak and less effective? Discuss with your group. Try reflexive prayer over the next week and pray about whatever comes up. Listen and let God lead you, then share your experiences with your group.
19. CHAPTER NINETEEN – A BALD MAN IN PLAID
How can we tell the difference between heavenly and earthly wisdom? Read James 3:13-18 and discuss your responses. Patiently listen for what God says about you first, then ask him to reveal things about members of your group, consulting Scripture together (see website for more).
20. CHAPTER TWENTY – PSYCHIC CHRISTIANS?
Do you fear the enemy’s power to deceive you? Discuss the safeguards in the chapter. Are there others you would add? The Holy Spirit always speaks in unison with Scripture, with love and hope, so read the Bible for yourself (and check out www.closerthanyourskin.com for more).
21. CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE – BELOVED
Do you sense a gap between knowing about God and actually knowing him? Is it hard to trust? If our stories are often short and tragic, how does that square with the larger story God is telling? Share about ways God has proven his love to you–maybe through a dream, a painting, or a Scripture–weaving the message into numerous experiences.